Earlier this year, Tecnomeccanica Biellese, an engineering firm that makes machinery for the woollens industry, carried out experiments using greasy wool to see how good the fleece was at gathering oil. It turned out to be very good. Coarse wool (the cheapest sort, with a fibre diameter of between 25 and 40 microns) was able to absorb ten times its own weight of heavy fuel oil, a refinery product similar to crude. Moreover, the oil could be squeezed out and the wool reused. Indeed, even after a dozen immersions in oil, for between 15 and 20 seconds each time, the wool’s absorptive capacity did not decline...
Mechanical mixers fitted between the booms and the hull will increase the wool’s absorptive capacity. As the ship moves through a spill, the oil-impregnated wool will be gathered mechanically up ramps and taken into the ship. As the wool is transported up these ramps any droplets of water attached to it will be shaken off. Once on board the wool will be pressed to recover the oil and then reused.
Mr Ploner estimates it would cost about €1m ($1.5m) to equip a 50-metre vessel to carry ten tonnes of wool. That would be sufficient, in optimum circumstances, to recover over 1,000 tonnes of oil.
01 June 2011
Wool as an absorbent of spilled oil
From a report at The Economist: